Difference Between Telescope and Binoculars


Main Difference

The main difference between a telescope and binoculars is that the telescope is an optical instrument which has a singular viewfinder and binoculars is an optical instrument that has two viewfinders instead of one.

Telescope vs. Binoculars

The telescope is an optical instrument that is made to see the far away objects. It has a singular viewfinder that allows one to see and interpret distant objects. Binoculars are also an optical enhancement device with two viewfinders instead of one. A telescope allows someone to see faraway objects with one eye as it has only one viewfinder. But a binocular allows one to see faraway objects using both eyes. It means that it provides a 3d image of the object. A telescope is so much heavy hence it is not portable. It has a bigger and powerful lens that is used to see further into the distance. Binoculars are smaller in size, portable, and have less powerful lenses that can only see up to a distance of a few feet. However, some special binoculars are more powerful than basic telescopes. The difference between telescopes and binoculars also lies in the manner in which they are usually used. Telescopes are ideal to look at stars and galaxies in our universe. Binoculars are ideally used for surveillance, bird watching, and animal watching on safaris. You will not get the same in-depth view with the binoculars as you can with a telescope. If you want to look at the deep sky objects and planets, then you will need to get a telescope. You can use binoculars with a tripod. It eliminates some of the ease of use benefit. You need to use a tripod to mount for perfect stability.


Comparison Chart

Optical enhancement device with a single lensOptical enhancement device with double lenses
Long distancesShort distances
Type of Lens
Single viewDual view
Field of View
Narrow and specificWide
Typically higherTypically lower

What is a Telescope?

The telescope is the optical enhancement device. It is purposely designed to use for the celestial observation (planets, stars, moon and other distant celestial objects). The high magnification of telescope power allows detailed observation. Its larger aperture/large lenses collect more light and allow us to view things even under lowlight situations. Telescopes are not easy to carry around as they are usually large and bulky as such. Telescopes are costly but are getting cheaper nowadays. Telescopes are monocular, which means that they are made of one eyepiece only. They watch far-away objects, especially celestial bodies and mountains. They are heavy and so are mounted on tripods. Their zoom of a telescope can range from 12x or 15x to 45x or 60x. The image seen with the telescope is in one plane and inverted. Classical telescopes are mainly designed for astronomical viewing. They have higher magnification and larger aperture. It makes them capable of viewing objects in low-light conditions and at the same time making you view fainter objects with greater detail. Hence, a telescope gives the best in-depth view and magnification. There are the following characteristics of telescopes:

  • detailed viewing of celestial objects
  • suitable for viewing in low light conditions
  • cameras can be attached
  • larger aperture
  • need a fixed stationary set-up (tripod)
  • heavy
  • not portable
  • requires regular maintenance and adjusting
  • monocular device (having a single eyepiece)
  • telescopes come in three varieties; reflectors, refractors, and catadioptric

What are Binoculars?

Binoculars are an optical device used for most terrestrial observation. They are the set of two small telescopes mounted side-by-side pointing towards the same direction. Binoculars are relatively small and lightweight. They usually have an additional erecting lens. Binoculars are easy to use. You don’t need any manual or guide to use binoculars. Binoculars are compact and small enough o fit around one’s neck. So they are best to carry when going to long distances. They are not also much expensive. For those who prefer to have the usage of both eyes for stargazing, binoculars will be a better option. As their name suggests, binoculars have two eyepieces. Binoculars have a closer focal point and a wider view. It makes them suitable and ideal to use for surveillance. Binoculars are also used for spying. Law enforcement and private investigators use this device to view the subject and to monitor their activities from a distance. They are regarded as the standard tool for spying. Moreover, they are used for bird watching, hiking, and animal watching. Their zoom ranges from 4x 36x. Binoculars are mostly used for terrestrial objects, and also for astronomical purposes. They convey an image through two different types of mechanisms; roof prism, Porro prism. There are the following features of binoculars:

  • portable
  • easy to handle
  • suitable for terrestrial viewing
  • wide field of view
  • closer focal point
  • affordable and maintenance free
  • not good for viewing in low light conditions
  • no detailed viewing of celestial objects
  • not suitable for astronomical viewing
  • two eyepieces
  • relatively small
  • have less powerful lenses
  • projects a clear 3-D image

Key Differences

  1. The telescope is an optical enhancement instrument that has a singular viewfinder whereas binoculars are also an optical enhancement device with two viewfinders instead of one.
  2. A telescope is stronger with the bigger and powerful lens on the flip side binoculars is smaller in size, and have less powerful lenses.
  3. Telescopes are usually large and heavy, so they are not portable conversely binoculars are portable due to their small size and lightweight.
  4. Telescopes are ideal to look at stars and galaxies in our universe; on the other hand; binoculars are ideally used for surveillance, bird watching, and animal watching on safaris.
  5. The more powerful lens of the telescope gives an in-depth view while binoculars have a less powerful lens that does not allow much in-depth view of distant things.


Telescope and binoculars are two optical enhancement devices. Both these devices are different from each other. Their difference lies in the way these optical devices are built and their intended use.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss